As you might imagine, the Discovery Institute concentrates on showing that evolution is wrong rather than focusing on whether Intelligent Design Creationism is correct. That's partly because they don't want to advocate teaching Intelligent Design Creationism in schools.
They explain the strategy on page 7 ...
Teaching this subject objectively means presenting both the scientific evidence for and against neo-Darwinian evolution. This does not mean simply criticizing evolution or only presenting the case against the neo-Darwinian model. Rather, objective instruction means:This strategy implies that students are taught something called "Neo-Darwinism" in class. Here's how they define Neo-Darwinism.
- Fully teaching the evidence for neo-Darwinian evolution from the textbook.
- Covering the entire required curriculum.
- Helping students understand the scientific arguments in favor of neo-Darwinian evolution as well as the scientific criticisms as they are presented in the scientific literature.
Darwin argued that natural selection had the power to produce fundamentally new forms of life. Together, the ideas of universal common descent and natural selection form the core of Darwinian evolutionary theory. "Neo-Darwinian" evolution combines our knowledge of DNA and genetics to claim that mutations in DNA provide the variation upon which natural selection acts.Right away we have a problem since many textbooks do not describe modern evolutionary theory in this manner. The handbook doesn't explain what teachers should do if they are teaching modern evolutionarytheory instead of Neo-Darwinism but I think it's pretty obvious what the Intelligent Design Creationists would recommend if they actually understood evolution. They would still recommend criticizing it.
In a real classroom run by competent teachers, the teachers would begin by pointing out that many creationist organizations have an incorrect and distorted view of evolution and they would pass out copies of the handbook. Then they would discuss why the Discovery Institute is promoting nonsense about evolution when they claim to be experts on the subject. The class could analyze the difference between the DI version of evolution that only covers natural selection and the modern view that includes random genetic drift and population genetics. This would be a highly effective way of teaching critical thinking and exposing students to one of the most common misconceptions about evolution.
In the right hands, this could lead to a discussion about why creationists seem to resist being educated about evolution even though the correct information is readily available on the internet. The class could learn about confirmation bias, begging the question, false dichotomy, and the strawman fallacy using examples from the handbook.
The Educator's Briefing Packet contains lots of other myths and misrepresentations that are commonly found in creationist literature. Debunking and correcting these examples can also be used to foster critical thinking and teach the truth about evolution. I'd like to thank the Discovery Institute for putting them all in one place. I'd love to spend a few days in a senior high school class showing the students why these are myths and/or misconceptions.
Here's the list1 ...
- Genetics: Mutations Tend to Cause Harm and Do Not Build Complexity. Darwinian evolution relies on random mutations which are acted on by natural selection, a blind and unguided process that has no goals. Such a random and undirected process tends to harm organisms. They do not seem capable of improving organisms or building new complex systems.
- Biochemistry: Unguided and Random Processes Cannot Produce Cellular Complexity.Cells contain incredible complexity, similar to machine technology but dwarfing anything produced by humans. Cells use circuits, miniature motors, feedback loops, encoded language, and even error-checking machinery which decodes and repairs our DNA. Many scientists have claimed that Darwinian evolution does not appear capable of building this type of integrated complexity.
- Paleontology: The Fossil Record Lacks Intermediate Fossils. The fossil record’s overall pattern is one of abrupt explosions of new biological forms and possible candidates for evolutionary transitions are the exception, not the rule. For example, the Cambrian Explosion is an event in life’s history over 500 million years ago where nearly all the major body plans of animals appear in a geological instant without any apparent evolutionary precursors.
- Taxonomy: Biologists Have Failed to Construct Darwin’s Tree of Life. Biologists hoped that DNA evidence would reveal a grand tree of life where all organisms are clearly related. Yet trees describing the alleged ancestral relationships between organisms based upon one gene or biological characteristic commonly conflict with trees based upon a different gene or characteristic. This implies a challenge to universal common descent, the hypothesis that all organisms share a single common ancestor.
- Chemistry: The Chemical Origin of Life Remains an Unsolved Mystery. The mystery of the origin of life is unsolved, and all existing theories of chemical evolution face major problems. Basic deficiencies in chemical evolution include a lack of explanation for how a primordial soup could arise on the early earth’s hostile environment, or how the information required for life could be generated by blind chemical reactions.
However, I'm not sure if we could ever have much of a discussion about these issues because the latest "ID the Future" podcast features a discussion between Nate Herbst and Casy Luskin about students who question evolution in class. As it turns out, many of those students have bad experiences because they end up feeling stupid when they challenge science in class. Luskin and Herbst recommend that they hide their beliefs in order to avoid such embarrassment [see Listen: Good Advice for Students Learning about Evolution]. Maybe that's not always a good idea, however, because Herbst and Luskin also have some stories about how they stumped the professors and caused them to change their minds about evolution and origins.
1. I wonder who they used as an authority on evolution in order to make up these questions?